What is going on with Leadership

Leadership? Anyone can be a leader these days. The world is full of them. Political Leaders, Business Leaders, Financial Leaders, Team Leaders, Thought Leaders, Leader Leaders!!

We’ve more leaders than you could shake a stick at, yet we seem to be going nowhere. We seem to be following the wrong leaders. Or are we being led by the nose by a bunch of goons?

My own view is that most of those passing themselves off as leaders these days are no more than tricksters. Every time the world, or even a small part of it gets in trouble, people look for a leader to save them. We are desperate to be led, and the first person to stick their neck out with a half believable story becomes the new Messiah. History is littered with such charlatans.

Let’s face it; most of us like to be led. We’ve been brought up to be led. There is always a parent, teacher, politician or policeman to guide us. In work the humble manager is being transformed into a leader in the hope that he or she will inspire us to deliver more for less. These new workplace and political charlatans prey on our need to be led and on our ignorance of what a true leader is.

Granted, there have been some great leaders down through the ages, and hundreds of thousands of lesser known leaders, whom history has forgotten. But where have they all gone? If we had them once, why don’t we have them now?

The truth is, that there aren’t as many of them around these days. Western society has bred them out. The values that once made leaders plentiful are no longer valued by society. Leaders aren’t born, they are bred by their community. But in today’s society the community structures that bred them have been torn asunder by so called progress.

It takes many years to produce a leader and it takes many good guides and mentors. Today, we shelter our children during their formative years. We fill their lives with dubious academic knowledge and electronic gadgets. We defy our neighbours and friends to chastise or criticise our offspring, yet we withhold our guidance and mentorship by working long hours with long commutes to fund their further academic studies. We have been led astray.

Today’s children are educated and knowledgeable, but they lack the wisdom of human understanding and self awareness. Their inner strengths and weaknesses are unpolished and unknown. They have yet to learn their true potential. By the time they most need this self knowledge, they are into a work world of “need to do it now” urgency. There is no time to learn and a two week “Leadership Course” won’t help them overcome years of neglect.

We no longer breed leaders, instead we make do with the next best thing. People who look like leaders. People with great knowledge and little wisdom. People who push others for results. People who lack empathy and understanding of others needs. We look to the greedy and the expedient and the “hard man” to lead us through our lives, because they carry the trappings of what now counts for success.

Do we respect them? Do we follow them willingly? Do we feel that our own needs are being satisfied by following them? Do we truly believe that they know what they are doing and where they are going? Do we share their goals and their personal values? I suspect not. I suspect that most of us would change leaders and jobs if we were given half a chance.

We know from employment research that people do not leave their job, they leave their manager. They leave the culture and they move to something they believe will be more satisfying. More on this later.